For about a dozen Republican congressional aides, July 24 was a day of intense highs and lows.
First came the highs. A little after 3 p.m., the House passed, by a vote of 216-210, a GOP managed-care reform bill that most of the aides had spent countless hours crafting (July 27, p. 4).
To celebrate the victory, the aides gathered in the office of Rep. J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), who shares a suite with House Majority Whip Thomas DeLay (R-Texas). Hastert chairs the GOP healthcare task force.
But minutes after they arrived, shots were fired just outside the office door.
Capitol Hill police officers told the aides to lie on the floor, and for a period of minutes they remained there, while confusion overtook the hallway outside the office.
"We hugged the carpet. We were definitely scared," said one of the aides, who asked not to be identified. "It's kind of strange, but we thought maybe it was someone who was unhappy over (the managed-care bill)."
At one point, several aides even tried to open a window to climb out of the office but found it stuck.
The gun battle outside the office suite claimed the lives of two Capitol Hill police officers, Jacob Chestnut and John Gibson. Several bystanders and the man charged in the shootings, Russell Weston, were wounded.
One of the first medical personnel to arrive at the scene was Sen. William Frist, M.D. (R-Tenn.), a heart and lung transplant surgeon. Frist was about to leave the Capitol when he heard about the shootings and rushed to the scene. He attended to several of the wounded and accompanied Weston to District of Columbia General Hospital.
According to D.C. General emergency room staff, Frist's actions were key to saving Weston's life.
This wasn't the first time Frist has been called on to practice his given trade on Capitol Hill. Two years ago, he was called to the aid of a Tennessee man who suffered a heart attack outside Frist's office.
In vivid detail. The movie epic "Saving Private Ryan," which chronicles one unit's experience surrounding the D-Day invasion of France during World War II, contains some of the most realistic battle scenes ever filmed, veterans who lived through the carnage are saying.
Maybe a little too real.
The Department of Veterans Affairs was prepared for reaction to the film, which opened nationwide July 24. The VA decided to extend the hours for its toll-free veterans hotline (1-800-827-1000) from the date of the opening through July 28 to offer assistance and counsel to veterans who might have been adversely affected by the battle scenes.
In fact, according to a VA spokeswoman, the hotline received about 100 calls during the extended hours from vets who saw the film.
For hire. Tom Adams wants to talk to you.
Adams, who's resigning as executive vice president of the Englewood, Colo.-based Medical Group Management Association Sept. 8, says he's ready for radical change after 20 years of trade association work, much of it with state medical societies. He says he'll talk to "tons of people" before deciding what to do.
"I want to look at all the opportunities, whether it's with a start-up biotechnology company, with an integrated system or with a (physician practice management company)," says Adams, who is 47 and commands well in excess of $200,000 in his current job.
Adams says his "greatest interest and talents lie in working with physicians to help them keep and build their practices."
More managed-care blues. Samuel Bierstock, M.D., the former South Florida eye surgeon who heads a band of "preferred music providers" known as Dr. Sam and the Managed Care Blues Band, has been back in the studio, recording another parody song that takes a swipe at the oft-vilified HMO industry. This time it's the CD single "You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me, Blue Shield," a ditty that tells the tale of a blue-collar guy who gets beaten up in a bar, then gets beaten up a second time by his HMO when he shows up at the hospital ER.
"You picked a fine time to leave me, Blue Shield./My jaw's dislocated and my bladder ain't healed./I need a pay raise, to make all these co-pays./And I'm worrying about my next meal./You picked a fine time to leave me, Blue Shield," sings Dr. Sam to the tune of Kenny Rogers' hit "You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me, Lucille."
It's just the latest in a string of tunes from Dr. Sam and his band (July 28, 1997, p. 46), who have made managed-care bashing a full-time gig, including a national tour with several Blue Cross and Blue Shield engagements.
"It's one of the songs we always get the biggest reaction to," Bierstock says.
Of course, Blues plans also have been moving full speed into the HMO business, which might give the good doctor pause. More likely, though, it'll just inspire another song.
Overheard in the field. What the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations' Oryx project really stands for: Our Requirement, Your Xpense.
Quotable. "He was terminated subsequent to his resignation."
Spokeswoman for San Diego-based FPA Medical Management, explaining an apparent contradiction in the company's announcement that it would withhold a controversial $4.8 million severance package to former Chief Executive Officer Seth Flam because Flam was fired. FPA originally called Flam's March departure a resignation. The quote appeared in the San Diego Union-Tribune.